this video report (8 min.), the NewsHour’s Jeffrey
Brown explores the recent scientific achievement in which monkeys learned how to control a robotic arm and feed themselves by using only their brainpower. Brown reviews earlier unsuccessful attempts to use brain activity to directly control physical devices, an accomplishment with great potential for humans with spinal cord and other injuries. Lead scientist Andrew Schwartz explains his team’s research project, including using a joystick at one stage of the monkeys’ training and use of the same electronic sensors that are routinely implanted in human brains. Their current achievement is an important milestone in a continuing process, and Schwartz describes the challenges ahead.
SELECTED QUOTES: - from Andrew Schwartz, University of Pittsburgh
“Right now, they’re able to reach out in space, grasp a small piece of food, and bring it back to their mouth. It’s a pretty skilled, accurate movement.”
“What this device is missing is a wrist and hand and fingers. So it’s actually pretty difficult to orient the gripper to pick up the food. “
“We think that, in the next two years, we’ll be able to have human patients, a few human patients for research purposes, controlling the same type of device and probably doing much better than what these monkeys were able to do.”
What is a prosthetic? Name several different types. Do you know anyone who uses a prosthetic? Name some famous people from the past or from fiction who used, or could have used, a prosthetic. Why has there been a recent increase in world-wide demand for artificial arms and legs?
What did you already know about prosthetics, what was new? Can you explain, in your own words, how the monkey’s mind-control moves the robot arm? Why will scientists be more challenged to give “mind control” over a monkey’s robot wrist and hand than than the current robot arm(shoulder)? Do you think scientists will have solved this problem by the time you graduate from high school? How will the introduction of brain-controlled prosthetics improve the lives of people who need them? What will be the impact of this new technology on our national health care system? Will health care costs rise or fall? What is your reaction? How would you balance the use of monkeys for this research with the human need for better prosthetics?
Transcript of this report
Monkey Video Watch a Monkey Move a Robotic Arm
2003 Report and Video Robotic Limbs Offer Hope to Amputees
Science Reports: Body and Brain Related reports